Friday, March 27, 2009

Filling my sketchbook

More Sketches out of the sketchbook.

I cannot resist the urge to shade things. I left the welder semi finished so that I could just show some lines. The more I did, the more I wanted to do. In fact, I can't promise I won't go fiddle with these more after I post this. As I type, there are things about both sketches screaming at me to fix them.

These were my references:

I deviated a lot with the welder. He looks like he is about to fly away in my sketch. I kind of like that idea. I am not sure what he would fix, or why it is broken. I just know that I really like putting wrinkles around eyes. How is that for a wandering mind?

I am about half way to filling this sketchbook. This is probably the closest I have come to actually filling one before it gets lost, abandoned or ruined. If I do fill it, this will be my first sketchbook filled by me. I have several sketchbooks started by me and finished by the girls. I don't know what it is about my sketchbooks that makes them want to draw in them. My writing notebooks often suffer the same fate. I can say I have a hand full of those that are 100% my own work. I think its better to have changed hands than to never have been opened.

I am not sure what kind of sketchbook I am going to get next. I like the paper in this one, but there are so many to choose from at Dick Blick its kind of hard to decide.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Observing Life

These are todays sketches. Not a lot of wow, but a little better than the slacking I have been doing. I am finding joy in sketching again. I am not sure where I lost my joy for sketching, or why. Rather than be analytical about it and over think the psychology of losing joy in something that has always been enjoyable, I will just spend my time looking for a pencil and more paper.

The biggest disadvantage when working from life is that life is constantly changing. The sun is always moving the light around. People are always shifting while they try to hold still. Things are always changing around us. While life is passing me by, I am steady working in that moment between what I originally noticed I wanted to sketch and what my sketch is becoming.

I think I am going to stop picking on myself for being a slow artist.

That is my thought for today. That is what I thought about after each of these sketches. If it takes me an hour to draw a simple apple sketch, so be it! If it takes me 20 minutes to get a finger right, then I might as well spend 30. Right?

I found this post on Concept Art:
Balance between improvement and productivity

It is a good question with some very good answers. Its one of those posts that make me go "Hmm.. " In fact, I have said "Hmm... " several times today thinking about it. I am not sure why I never really thought of art study like this before. Perhaps lack of patience with myself? Ack. Now I am sounding like my father! Yes, I believe I am going to be nicer to myself and be patient with my turtle speed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Giving life meaning.

Every once in a while I will catch myself "feeling" the lines I put down. There is no way to describe this feeling. It is similar to a trance like state. I did not have this when I painted the yellow rose. I did not have it when I did the sketch of my daughter. I did have it when I did the sketch of my son.

I tried to pay attention to the quality of the moment when I was sketching my son to figure out how I find that place so that I can return to it. What was going through my mind? How was I holding my pencil? What was I paying attention to? What was I doing just before I started. How did it end?

The answer: I was absolutely focused on the process. I was not concerned with the result. I was not concerned with my surroundings. I was not doing anything but responding to what I was seeing. That answer sounds so vague doesn't it?

Every drawing is a response to what you are seeing. Right?


Many of my drawings are a response to what I think I know about what I see. Others are a response to what I see when I allow myself to stop thinking about what I know. When I allow myself the opportunity to discover what I am looking at for the first time it becomes exciting. This is even more true when it is something I am familiar with, like my sons face. You would think that would be something I have memorized. Yet last night, it was as though I had never seen him before in my life.

This is no great secret. In all of the great drawing books there is a section about getting rid of what you think you know and learning to really see your subject matter. We humans have such a need to predict results, yet the best results come when we let go of what we think will happen next. I am not going to claim that this is the best sketch I have ever done. I will say that this sketch felt better than any I have done recently.

I believe that I will be come a better artist (and maybe even a better person) when I can stop being dependent upon my ability to predict results and start relying on my ability to see what is really there. I will have to be patient. This sketch happened after several failed attempts to represent what I saw. It wasn't until I had exhausted my attention to prediction that I found my ability to see. My sketch began to take on a meaning that could only happen after I stopped forcing it to mean what I thought it needed.

This isn't just true as an artist. This is true about life itself. How many times have I been in a conversation and predicted what I think someone will say? How many times have I passed up an opportunity because I predicted the reward would not be worth the effort? How many times have I passed up an opportunity because I did not notice there was an opportunity? It is probably a good thing I will never know the answer to these questions.

Just as important, how many times do I attach meaning to things that mean very little. I fall in love with a line that is in the wrong place, or a shape that is off. I will struggle endlessly with all of the lines and shapes around it trying to make them seem right. This is not just a bad habit in art. This also happens in life.

It is fascinating how good and bad habits translate in various activities. I have been very preoccupied with what I would communicate visually if I had the skill level to communicate it well. Perhaps it is more important to concentrate on what I could understand in my communication efforts rather than what I could tell.

Of course, the best of this group is the drawing of the girl that my daughter put in my sketchbook. I don't have to analyze that one. I just get to enjoy it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

So many things to talk about!

After a long visit with Dad (2 1/2 weeks) I forgot how much I love Eastern Oregon. I haven't been back "home" in so long it felt like I was in a familiar foreign land. Not much changes about Pendleton, Or. It still has the "wild west" appeal. I truly enjoyed seeing mountains in the distance and driving up and down the hills.

I got to have hours and hours of time to just sit and chat with my father. He has to go to Dialysis 3 times a week for 3 1/2 hours each visit. I don't think Dad and I have ever talked that much in my whole life. I enjoyed stories of his childhood, stories of my childhood and discussions about how the world has changed over his 85 year lifespan. We talked about the kids, food, gardening and weather. It was amazing how fast the 4 hours came and went while we sat there discussing everything and nothing important.

In his round about way, Dad gave me a new perspective on what is important in life. I came back understanding a lot more about my inner need to make things with my own hands after listening to him talk about his "homemade life". In another world, he might have been an engineer or an inventor. Even though he claims he made things because he couldn't afford to buy them, I could see the look in his eye as he described the things he built. There was no regret about a lack of money when he explained how he put things together and made things work.

Outliers: The Story of Success
On the way home, I picked up Outliers by Malcom Gladwell. I am about half way into this book and it is fascinating. Interestingly enough, it touched base on some of the very things Dad and I had just been talking about. I love how Gladwell has broken down so many of the old ideas on success. I might give a more detailed book report after I finish.

I came home feeling quite inspired. I gained a "Can-do" attitude somewhere between the Blue Mountains of Oregon and Indiana. It was good for my soul to reflect on where I came from and where I want to go.

I returned home to a large box from Dick Blick that contained 20 6x6 canvases and other assorted supplies for my birthday. I also received a dozen roses in assorted colors. I haven't painted in months. So I thought I would do a few practice paintings to get warmed up.

I have become a fan of Strathmore 5x7 Canvas Cards! They hold up well to gesso and have minimal warping. I was very surprised at how well they held up to the abuse I dealt them. At a little over 35 cents per card, they are an economical way to do small paintings. In my case, they are a very nice media to warm up on.

Strathmore 5x7 Canvas Cards

Strathmore 5x7 Canvas Cards

I have had requests for some charcoal drawings. Yikes. I really did not do as well with this one as I wanted to. It started going south and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I will have to do this one again.

After Titian
Charcoal on Paper

Success has so many faces, but almost all of them have that same kind of glow. If I wasn't in the right place at the right time, then I wouldn't be here. Maybe one day, I will be an 85 year old woman and have the same glow in my eyes when I talk about how I made things with my own two hands. Being rich or famous doesn't interest me nearly as much as the idea that I can accomplish good things.

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